Province’s COVID-19 compensation tardiness leads to cashflow concerns for Southwestern Public Health


city_scope_logo-cmykLike the situation faced by numerous individuals and families over the last two years, Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) this week let it be known it has “significant cashflow concerns.”
Of course, that would be related to COVID-19 expenditures and “the delay in reimbursement by the Ministry of Health.”
The situation is outlined in a letter to city council for Monday’s (Oct. 18) meeting and signed by board chairman Larry Martin and CEO Cynthia St. John.
How many times have you heard Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott pay tribute to the province’s health units for the yeoman work undertaken during the pandemic?
Work that includes a vaccination program executed remarkably.
So how about thanking these health units by coughing up the money promised to them in the early going of the pandemic.
The tardiness has reached such a critical stage, SWPH has had to dip into cash on hand from the 2019 year-end surplus and increase its line of credit to the maximum of three million dollars from $800,000.

So bad, in fact, SWPH will have to levy each of the municipalities in the health unit’s region a total of four million dollars.
In the city’s case, that is almost $800,000.

“The board and staff recognize an additional levy is the last resort.”

As noted in the letter to council, “This will ensure that SWPH’s financial obligations are met, and this will bridge the gap between now and the date the ministry of Health reimburses SWPH for its Covid-19 expenditures.”
Memorial Arena vaccination 1Of course, these funds will be returned to the city and all of the other municipalities once the province comes through with the money.
“The board and staff recognize an additional levy is the last resort.”
And, by the way, payment is due by Nov. 1.
That should further stoke the fire in Mayor Joe Preston’s ongoing reminder healthcare is a provincial jurisdiction.

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WHAT WE HAVE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

Last month Earl Taylor, chairman of the Downtown Development wrote to mayor and council raising concerns about the courtesy crosswalks along Talbot Street in the downtown core.
What he requested was the conversion of those crossings to pedestrian-friendly as soon as possible, and ideally before the end of the year.
Taylor feels this could be accomplished by installing new signage reading ‘Stop for Pedestrians.’
Well, a report on the agenda for Monday’s (Oct. 18) meeting details the recommended strategy to upgrade all of the uncontrolled crossings over the next two years.
In the case of the four Talbot Street crossings, it is recommended they be upgraded to one of two controlled crosswalk options at a cost of $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the traffic/pedestrian count at each location.
This would not take place until 2023 when Phase 3 of the Talbot Street reconstruction is to be undertaken.
Which is the game plan originally suggested by Taylor.
In the interim, Taylor is asking council to revise the original motion so the courtesy crosswalks are changed to pedestrian-friendly crossings as soon as possible followed by the installation of signalled crosswalks when it comes time to redevelop Talbot Street.

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IS WIDER REALLY BETTER?

At a time when there is growing pressure to re-evaluate our priorities in the face of increasing evidence of rapid climate change, a presentation at Tuesday’s (Oct. 12) council meeting by Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting Ltd. should have been an eye-opener for council members.
Putre updated members on the city’s Transportation Master Plan and, while there was a positive reference to cycle lanes and trails, it was the amount of road widening that should raise eyebrows and questions.
Especially in light of the bold step London city council took recently to vote down a project that would have widened a stretch of Wonderland Road to six lanes.
Master Transportation Plan 1 vehicular network Oct 12-21Under the plan, in the next five to 10 years Wellington Street from Fifth to Ross would be widened to four lanes and beyond 10 years, Burwell from South Edgeware to Talbot and Sunset Drive from Elm Street to Talbot Hill would also increase to four lanes.
That last project should present some engineering and design challenges.
As was stressed in London, adding more lanes doesn’t necessarily alleviate traffic congestion, it can attract more motorists only to again lead to gridlock.
Positive recommendations in the plan include conversion of stretches of Scott and Curtis streets to two-way flow, the addition of turn lanes on South Edgeware and Sunset Drive and numerous new roundabouts throughout the city.
No specific mention was made regarding public transit other than the generic ‘transit-priority measures’ throughout the city.
As for cyclists, the plan calls for conventional bike lanes on Kains Street, Wellington Street, Fairview Avenue and Elm Street with protected bike lanes on Centre Street (a stretch of the protected lane is now in place) and Sunset Drive.
Elgin county previously added bike lanes from the city south to Port Stanley.

A TRAFFIC CIRCLE FOR HWY 3?

Still, with roundabouts, it is noteworthy the recommended design concept to improve the road network in the area of Wonderland Road, Ron McNeil Line, Ford Road and Highway 3 is a traffic circle.
This conclusion is part of the Environmental Assessment conducted by the Ministry of Transportation and Elgin county.
Wonderland Road intersection EAIt is also recommended the undertaking be ‘stepped-down’ to a Group C project. These result in minor or no increase in traffic capacity or cause minor or no widening of the footprint beyond the existing area.
A 30-day comment period is now open and runs until Nov. 10.
You can find more information at https://www.elgincounty.ca/wonderland-highway3/.

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ART IN THE PARK

According to Serge Lavoie, watch for 10 reproduction art panels to start appearing along the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
The reproductions come from the permanent collection at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre which coordinated the project which is financially supported through the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell via the Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation.
STEP Serge Lavoie and artworkJust another reason to spend time wandering along the elevated park.
We also have to put the bug in Serge’s ear about the possibility of a lighted Christmas tree high in the sky this December.

THE ECHO CHAMBER

Following up on last week’s item on Dennis Kalichuk’s petition urging the province to overhaul the mental health system, Deb Hardy passed along kudos to Dennis.

“I hope the powers that be will pay attention and start something for us. Thank you Dennis Kalichuk!”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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